TDmonthly Magazine!
December 2015 | Vol. XIV - No. 12


Want to know how to close a retail sale? Take your time.

Steve was a very good salesman.

He had enthusiasm; he had product knowledge, and he had a swagger to his presentations. 

He wanted to help as many people as possible  - to get ‘em in and quickly get ‘em out when closing a sale, so he could then go onto the next customer.

About half the shoppers who encountered him thought he was fun and a bit outrageous.

But he had a finite time he’d give himself to wait on someone. If the customer wanted to bond a bit and enjoy his company...dicey.

Once their allotted time was up, Steve would try to close the sale before the customer had been convinced of the worth of the item with some of those awful closing techniques.

Remember these 60’s closing techniques?

The Alternative of Choice Close

Would you like to put it on layaway or take it today?...implying they can only say yes to buying it.

The Porcupine Close… assuming when they say yes, the sale is as good as done.

Customer: Does this come in black?
Steve: Would you like it in black?

I always hoped someone would counter, “I’ll play your silly game. Why would I have asked if I didn’t want it?”

The Assumptive Close

Would you like this in a box or a bag?...implying it's a done deal which gives customers the bum’s rush.

Those are awful ways to provide customer service or sell something.

But I get it.

There can be so much frustration when you can’t close a sale quickly.

Your customer might finally reveal, “We were just killing time today to see how low a price you’d go.” Ugh!

Or while you were with your customer, you might have seen a customer you helped earlier come back and simply say, “I’ll take it,” to another employee.

Or you might have seen other salespeople ring up big sales. And if you work on commission, you know it only takes one of those sales to dine at Morton’s instead of McDonald’s.

When it gets right down to “Will they buy it from me today?,” you have to have built up the value of you as a salesperson and the value of the product or you will lose the sale.

That’s because...

Customers are wondering if your widget, your service, or your product they are about to spend a big old pile of money on is going to do what they want and need it to do.

And they’ll safeguard their wallet - either physical or digital - until they feel safe.

How do you build that safety, that value?

By slowing the heck down…

A recent WSJ article, The Slower You Shop, the More You Spend, revealed stores that slow the shopper down and involve more storytelling saw a 20-40% rise in sales.

Let that sink in...20-40%.

Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail said, “The core of slow shopping is to make it interesting and engaging, versus online shopping, which is quick and easy.”

Contrast that with retailers pushing for ways to get customers in and out fast.

That might be a holdover from most marketing programs which are designed for the quick and easy. They try to acquire and attract new customers with discounts versus spending the time and money to retain those who shopped with them prior.

A 2014 Econsultancy survey bears this out. While 47 percent of retailers indicated they would spend equally on both acquiring and retaining customers; 34 percent would invest more in acquiring new customers, while only 18 percent would spend more on retention.

Here's the real kicker to that...

Some programs, in fact, spend up to 75 percent of their time and money solely on acquisition.

They’re like Steve running around trying to get every sale.

Yet as the study showed, existing customers are far more likely to spend more money and spend more frequently. They are also more likely to try new products, and refer new customers which contribute more to your profitability than just acquiring new customers.

But it takes time to get customers, whether new or existing, to buy.

When done right however, you build up enough value when selling that you are trustworthy.

8 Ways You Build Value While Selling:
  • Greet the customer as if they are making your day, not like you are making theirs.
  • Find something in common with what you see about them.
  • Welcome their stories and share your own.
  • Modulate your personality so the stranger can hear you in the way they want to hear you.
  • Listen, really listen to what is important to the shopper. Rarely is it price alone. They want to look better, feel better, brag, gain name it.
  • Confirm what you think you’ve heard them say before ever trying to fix or answer their needs.
  • Point out only the benefits the shopper was looking for, and never vomit endless features that some rep told you were really interesting. They are never universal.
  • Encourage the customer to share with you how the gift was received, how the project finished up, how the big night went...and then remember them.
That all takes time.

And generally it takes time you already have....

Instead of hanging out at the register complaining about how you have to work late or about what some nobody did on Facebook or how slow it is, take the time to spend time with a customer.

You may only get four people in today who will buy from you.

Even if you’re lucky and more people come in, remember, you have the time.

Remember too, customer shopping habits have changed.

No one goes on a leisurely walk through the mall just for kicks and giggles.

They are more likely to want to buy something as a reward for their effort of researching online, driving to a brick and mortar store, having to find a place to park, and then walking in when they could have stayed home and clicked a mouse.

But I get it, most retailers have given employees only cursory retail sales training at best, so employees are left on their own to take the quick route and try to make a sale…and that’s why "This is on SALE today" becomes their default closing technique.

They’ll never highlight why a product's value is worth consideration or try to overcome price objections.

They’ll just be happy the customer leaves them alone long enough so they can get back to Planet Facebook or Planet Snapchat.

And slowing down with others allows us to slow down for ourselves.

Instead of running to the next shiny object or app to distract our own culpability for being bored and disinterested, we can listen with our hearts to how we are treating ourselves.

And from that self-knowledge choose to change that with the next person walking in.

In Sum

When everything is price, price, price, nothing has value.

While your marketing department may tout how quickly someone can get in and get out or how low your prices are, to profitably sell your merchandise, you have to get out of the desire for a speedy close and concentrate on providing value at every level of your customer’s journey in your store.

Don't allow your rush of trying to close every sale make you impatient or you’ll be stuck selling on price forever...and never on the value you offer

Bob PhibbsWriter's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author


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